Thursday, November 29, 2012

15 comments Gregg Easterbrook Comes Back Worse Than Ever After His Bye Week

Last week in TMQ...well there was no TMQ last week and the shock waves from the lack of Gregg Easterbrook's NFL musings reverberated loudly throughout the journalistic community. Actually, I completely forgot Gregg wasn't writing last week and woke up this past Monday worried I had missed writing a TMQ post for this week. So TMQ was missed only in that I forgot to miss it.

This week Gregg thinks we should celebrate Notre Dame's academic standards, doesn't realize college football is about athletics and not about academics, and tells us (sniffles a little bit) that Pulaski Academy lost this past week. I'm sure the reason they lost was not because Kevin Kelley failed to go for it on fourth down, thereby signifying to his players he was really super-serious about winning the game. It was probably a fluke they lost...or else they faced another quality high school football team in the state semifinals instead of facing another team outside of a Top 30 ranking in the state (which is all they had faced in the playoffs up until that point).

There is general excitement that Notre Dame will play for the BCS title. Tuesday Morning Quarterback certainly is on the bandwagon. The mix of Notre Dame's place in football lore, its standing as an academic institution and its Irish traditions has broad appeal, including to those who are not Irish. Don't take this personally, SEC, but much of the nation, if not much of the world, will be rooting against you on Jan. 7.

I'm not entirely sure Gregg Easterbrook has his finger on the pulse of the nation. There are a lot of Notre Dame haters out in the world who will be cheering for the SEC (even Nick Saban) just to watch Notre Dame lose. I don't know how Gregg thinks Notre Dame has such broad appeal to where much of the world will be cheering for them, but I'm cheering for whichever SEC team makes it. I don't like the SEC and really, really don't like Alabama, but I'm not sure I can cheer for Notre Dame this year...even if they are obviously the morally, ethically, athletically, academically, and most godly team in the history of college football.

There's an important aspect of the Notre Dame season that is being overlooked. Taking into account the latest NCAA graduation stats, last week Notre Dame became the first college football team to be ranked No. 1 in the polls and No. 1 in graduation success

This has been completely overlooked! I didn't know Notre Dame had high academic standards. It's not like Sports Illustrated did an entire article about Notre Dame this past week or NBC ever focuses on Notre Dame or have a page called Notre Dame Central. There's even an article up about how magical the season is and mentions the academic standards of Notre Dame. Notre Dame has relatively strict academic standards and that's good for them. Being #1 in graduation success and in the BCS polls is an achievement, but Notre Dame's academic standards are rarely overlooked.

Hearty congratulations are due to coach Brian Kelly, Notre Dame president John Jenkins, and the Fighting Irish team.

Absolutely there are hearty congratulations due. Did we ever figure out which current Notre Dame player it was that Lizzy Seeberg accused of rape prior to killing herself?

I'm being snide. And yes, I am not naive. I know those scandals can occur at almost any college with any college football player. I'm not picking on Notre Dame, but picking on the hearty congratulations Gregg Easterbrook is giving Notre Dame. It's one player, one allegation and no one is guilty because of that accusation. It's just there is this perception of perfection that irritates me and Gregg is feeding into it. It's not really the perception given by the school, but by the media towards Notre Dame. Cheering for Notre Dame is like cheering for the Cowboys (much of the superiority about the program is based on achievements from nearly 20 years ago), combined with cheering for Duke (the whole program is seen as so fucking perfect and can do no wrong), and the Yankees (it's a popular bandwagon team) all in one. That's why quite a few people will be cheering for the evil they know (the SEC) rather than the evil they are afraid will rise up (Notre Dame).

Me? If I had to name the college football programs I hated the most, Notre Dame wouldn't crack the Top 10. Quite a few people I know seem to hate the Fighting Irish more than I do though, so I think Gregg is a little off in thinking Notre Dame is the fan's overwhelming favorite.

The NCAA ought to be intensely proud of Notre Dame's achievement. Instead, so far it has said nothing. The "network partners" of the NCAA -- ABC, CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC -- ought to be intensely proud, rolling the drums for the double-first.

Dear Gregg,

College football is not about academics. If you think it is about academics, then that makes you stupid and naive.


One can't help thinking the NCAA and its network partners hesitate to draw attention to any big-college football program that does well in the classroom. That only sets the bar high for everyone else, and the NCAA, plus several of the big-money conferences, benefit from keeping the bar low.

Yes, I am sure that is the reason the NCAA hasn't highlighted this. You got them. Busted.

When Stanford and Virginia Tech met in the 2010 Orange Bowl, that contest featured the highest combined football graduation rates in BCS annals. So far as I am aware, only TMQ highlighted this.

Of course to be aware of anyone else who highlighted this Gregg would have to do an Internet search. Gregg refuses to do research and prefers to base his facts on assumptions he makes. I did an Internet search and ten seconds later I found this column. I also found this column. But in his mind, Gregg is the only one who dared to write about these two teams and mention academics. It's funny how he doesn't do any research so he just assumes he is the only one to highlight the graduation rates of these two teams. It makes him feel right and that's all that matters to him. He wants to feel like he is the only one who highlighted the academics of these two schools, so he doesn't pursue any knowledge that would tell him otherwise.

The very first stop for potential recruits on official visits to Virginia Tech, for example, is an hour with an academic counselor. That happens before the young man meets any coach, or sees the stadium and its NFL-caliber facilities. Set the bar high, and athletes will respond--

Some of these athletes will respond by choosing to commit to another college.

because they are competitive by nature. Make excuses, and the graduation rate will be low. 

While I don't disagree if a college makes excuses for athletes in regard to academics then they can find the graduation rate being low, college athletes are competitive by nature on the field, not necessarily in the classroom. Anyone who has spent any time tutoring certain college athletes knows this to be true. Challenge that player to understand a concept or get an answer right in the academic world and you don't automatically see the competitive juices that show up on the field. I don't know where Gregg lives. Perhaps not in a world where some college athletes go to school in order to become professional athletes.

Obviously this isn't true for every college athlete, but the competitive fire you see on the field doesn't necessarily extend to the classroom.

In other football news, Chicago leading Minnesota 16-3, the Bears lined up for a PAT kick -- then holder Adam Podlesh kept the ball and ran untouched for two points. On tries, why are NFL coaches so reluctant to go for two from kick formation? In the rare instances when this play is used, it's devastating.

Because the more NFL teams go for two from a PAT formation the more opposing teams will be prepared for this to happen. Not to mention, if a team wants to go for 2 points then it makes more sense to have a team's best offensive personnel on the field rather than have the holder (assuming he isn't the starting quarterback) try to run the ball in the end zone or throw a pass to covert the two point conversion. If a team is going for two, it makes much more sense to have that team's best offensive personnel on the field.

Last season in the NFL, 1,255 of 1,262 singleton tries succeeded. Because PAT kicks are nearly automatic, NFL defenses tend to snooze through them. Defenders take a step in the direction of the kicker, but otherwise pay little attention. So line up in PAT kick formation, then run a play!

Then after seeing teams do this a few times opposing defenses will start not attempting to block the extra point and this trick will no longer work for a while.

This seems to make coaches think, "If only 50 percent of two-point tries succeed, compared to 99 percent of PAT kicks, just take one since you'd come out the same in the end if you always went for two anyway."

But most NFL deuce tries are expected! The first-string offense stays on the field, giving the defense ample warning. Tuesday Morning Quarterback wants unexpected deuce tries, from kicking formation. 

Because this strategy has worked a couple of times doesn't mean it would work if used more often. In fact, because this strategy isn't used often probably can be attributed to the current success of going for two from the PAT formation. It's not difficult for opposing defenses to start to defend this play. So unexpected deuce tries would soon become expected deuce tries.

Surprise deuce tries should work:

FOR A LITTLE WHILE ONLY! This isn't a permanent "trick" a team can use because NFL defenses aren't fucktards and will eventually just leave a couple players back from attempting to block the PAT to defend against this trick.

NFL coaches rarely go for two from PAT kick formation for the same reason they rarely go for the first on fourth-and-short -- fear of criticism. Do the "safe" thing, kick and lose later, the players will be blamed.

I don't think a coach would be blamed for going for two from the PAT formation if he did this once, but yes, a head coach would get criticism and deserve it when going for two from the PAT formation on a regular basis. It's not fear of this criticism that would cause a coach to stop going for two from the PAT formation, but fear of using a surprise strategy when the strategy is no longer a surprise.

Stats of the Week No. 3: Since the beginning of the 2010 season, the Bears are 27-9 with Jay Cutler at quarterback, 1-8 with anyone else.

Yes, but he didn't say "hello" to the cameraman upon entering the stadium on Sunday. May he burn in Hell!

Stats of the Week No. 10: On Thanksgiving Day, the Jets gained 405 yards on offense at home, and lost; the Cowboys gained 458 yards on offense at home, and lost; the Lions gained 525 yards on offense at home, and lost.

Well, two of those teams (the Cowboys and Jets) were playing catch-up for the entire second half. So their yardage is a bit misleading since it came against defenses that weren't being overly aggressive and the Jets/Cowboys were having to pass the ball a lot.

Jersey/A leading Green Bay 17-7, the host Giants faced third-and-6 on the Packers' 9. Jersey/A came out "three by one," one of the year's popular looks -- trips on one side, a single receiver opposite. Green Bay showed a funky defensive front, with all 11 men standing and everyone tight to the line of scrimmage, the deepest safety only four yards off.

This safety who is four yards off the line of scrimmage wasn't really tight to the line of scrimmage then was he? I don't know why I continually insist on ruining Gregg's points with meaningless facts that show the basis upon which he makes his points is a bit faulty.

Dallas leading 3-0 in the second quarter, the Redskins faced fourth-and-15 on their 32. Washington is among NFL teams showing pistol backfields -- usually one running back behind the quarterback, another to his side. The Skins came out in in a pistol-flavored version of the full house, with a tailback and two fullbacks in the backfield. So it must be a power-rush! Instead it was a play-fake, 68-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson, first of four touchdown passes on the day for RG3.

Two receivers went down the field, yet Robinson was able to get behind the Cowboys' secondary. Cornerback Brandon Carr simply let Robinson blow past him, as if he was in a short zone with deep help. The safety on that side, Danny McCray, also ignored Robinson.

Troy Aikman made a point of showing an overhead shot of this play and explaining what happened. Yet Gregg still inexplicably writes that Brandon Carr let Robinson blow by him "as if he was in a short zone with deep help." I say "inexplicably" because this is exactly what happened. Carr thought he would have safety help, but McCray bit on the play action fake and Carr's help was no longer available. This touchdown was not on Brandon Carr, but on the safety who was supposed to be helping Carr out. So Carr wasn't playing "as if" he had deep help, he really was supposed to have deep help.

The ATS is zoomy, handles like Europe's best and offers quality fit-and-finish. General Motors was supposed to go out of business; you'd never know if from this car. And there is incredible reverse snob appeal in saying, "Hey, want a ride in my brand-new stick-shift Cadillac?"

Actually, there is douche appeal in saying this. 

After Baltimore's fourth-and-29 conversion at San Diego, zebras reviewed the down for seven minutes before deciding the ball was spotted correctly all along. Decisions on the field are supposed to be overturned only if there is clear evidence the call was wrong. If the referee is watching the replay over and over and over, then the evidence is not clear and the call on the field must stand.

Referees should get to see the replay twice, then the viewer and the headphones should be turned off. If you've seen the play live once and replayed twice and you're still not certain what happened, the call on the field should stand. 

There are two issues with this I see:

1. There is more than one angle the referee sees the replay from, so if there are three angles then it doesn't make sense to only allow him to see two of those angles.

2. Gregg is a terrible, terrible writer who makes too many assumptions. Why can the referee only see it replayed twice? Perhaps the referee didn't see the play live (which is very possible), so the replay is only his first chance at seeing what happened, and he only gets two chances to make a determination? Why not give the referee three shots to view the replay? Why have the arbitrary number of replays at two?

Gregg doesn't think before he writes. He doesn't think that perhaps there is more than one angle to view the replay from, nor does he think perhaps the referee didn't see the play live.

Wacky Food of the Week: This food critic reports he is "weary" of eating

Fucking shit. That is not what the food critic said. Not at all. Gregg has such balls to misquote a person and then provide a link to exactly what the person wrote. Here is what the critic wrote:

Yes, food trends beg to be quibbled over. We grow weary of cupcakes, of meatballs, of the overwhelming ubiquity of bacon. And yet it’s hard to find fault with the recent ascendancy of Asian dumplings on a lot of city menus, in part because it’s hard to snicker at the simple, plump lovability of this globe-spanning culinary trope:

Find me where the food critic says anything related to "weary" in regard to "eating." You can't because he didn't write it. He said "we grow weary" of certain foods, but was not talking about growing weary of eating overall. I can't fathom how ESPN lets Gregg Easterbrook write this column when he so blatantly lies about what other people say or do. These isn't a common mistakes that Gregg makes. He read the article and then stated the author claimed he was weary of eating when that wasn't at all what was said. It's terrible journalism to misconstrue so obviously what a person writes.

It's like if I read the TMQ where Gregg stated he would no longer be doing the "Cheerleader of the Week" feature while wondering where the shirtless men in magazines had gone to, then I stated that Gregg reported he was tired of seeing women half-dressed and now is more attracted to men who are half-dressed.

Tedford Deserved the Ax: Many touts were surprised last week when Cal fired head coach Jeff Tedford, who guided the Golden Bears to nine winning records and eight bowl appearances in 11 years, plus developed future NFL star Aaron Rodgers. 

Not really. If Gregg followed college football writers on Twitter he would find not very many were surprised. Tedford has also put Marshawn Lynch, Kyle Boller, Jahvid Best, and Desean Jackson (plus others) in the NFL. So Tedford has had success with putting players in the NFL outside of Aaron Rodgers.

The Big [TK] offers about $7 million more annually in football television revenue than the current conferences of UMD and Rutgers. Since Maryland's ACC agreement includes a $50 million exit fee, spending $50 million for an extra $7 million suggests the Terrapins may not come out ahead for years, if ever. Perhaps the plan is to stiff Maryland taxpayers with the ACC exit fee. Or perhaps, subtract that amount from academics by cutting classes and professors to free up more funds for football coaches and stadium upgrades. The University of Maryland already charges all students a $398 annual fee to support the athletic department. 

This is a lie. Find me where $398 is charged to support the athletic department. There is $67.30 that goes to athletics but more money goes to "Recreation Building" and "Stamp Union" fees. Nearly every college charges an "activity fee" that encompasses more than just helping out the sports team. The University of Maryland is nice enough to break this fee down to show that Gregg is misleading his readers...again.

UMD president Wallace Loh declared with a straight face the reason was not football money or TV marketing clout -- but that joining whatever-it's-called will improve Maryland's academic standing, by creating an affiliation with Northwestern and the University of Michigan. Those are fine colleges. But leaving the ACC means Maryland loses its affiliation with Duke University, notably superior to Northwestern and Michigan in academic standing.

Wouldn't an affiliation with two fine colleges be better than an affiliation with one fine college?

Maryland has an open-meetings law that requires meetings of the university-system regents to be open to the public. Yet UMD regents met in secret to approve the conference shift, raising their middle fingers to state law. The regents claimed exemption from the open-meeting law because football conference discussions were an "emergency." An "emergency," though the change does not take effect until 2014.

We all know Gregg has a fundamental misunderstanding of time. I don't know if this was an emergency or not, but Maryland had to make a decision to join the Big 10 once the offer was extended and probably didn't have until 2014 to make this decision.

In my Oct. 23 column, I praised Andy Ashkar of Camillus, N.Y., who "was revealed to have won $5 million in a lottery six years ago, and to have waited till the last possible moment to claim the prize." According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Ashkar feared the huge sum "would negatively influence his life." He claimed the money only after deciding to split it with his brother Nayel.

Many readers, including Michael Dietrich of Bethlehem, Pa., noted that follow-up stories show Ashkar has been charged with grand larceny.

What Gregg doesn't tell his readers who don't click on the link is that the lottery money didn't "negatively influence" his life to where he committed grand larceny after he won, he got the winning lottery ticket because he had committed grand larceny. This isn't a case of money ruining him, this guy was already an asshole criminal before he falsely won the lottery. In fact, he won the lottery because he is an asshole criminal.

Last season, Pulaski punted once and won the state title. This season, the Bruins did not punt at all, and reached the state semifinals. Pulaski won its playoff game held during the TMQ bye week, going for it five times on fourth down and converting four. Friday, Pulaski was defeated in the Arkansas semis.

Pulaski won their first playoff game 77-35 without punting, running the ball 25 times and throwing the ball 55 times. Does that sound like somewhat bully coach behavior to you?

Then Pulaski ran into the 12th ranked team in the state and lost. Pulaski ran for -13 yards and threw the ball 40 times. Gregg would normally criticize them for being a pass-wacky team but he has an agenda to make them sound like no-punting heroes so he doesn't do that. Gregg also doesn't detail how well Pulaski did on fourth down against a team that was ranked as highly as they were. I can only assume (based on his history of leaving information out that doesn't support his view) this is because Pulaski didn't convert many fourth downs in the game.

The Bruins ended their 2012 campaign at 11-3; they converted 35 of 75 fourth downs. A 47 percent conversion rate is lower than might be expected; the New Orleans Saints this season are 55 percent on fourth downs, for instance. But Pulaski goes on fourth-and-long as well as fourth-and-short. A conversion on fourth-and-15 is a game-changer play.

I'm sorry, all I am reading are excuses for why Pulaski converted at a lower percentage than the Saints, even though the level of talent between Pulaski and their competition is wider than the level of talent between the Saints and other NFL teams. I am not against never punting, but Pulaski's low percentage even when going against competition they had a clear talent advantage over (at times) leads me to believe occasional punting isn't a bad thing in terms of being a competitive football team.

Pulaski had several big-margin wins this season, including 56-0 and 77-35. Asked if not punting in the fourth quarter, once attaining an insurmountable lead, is running up the score,

It sort of is.

Kelley gave this answer:

"The very people who say I am wrong for not punting, because it will cause us to lose, also say that not punting runs up the score. They can't have it both ways -- not punting can't be a bad strategy and unstoppable at the same time.

I see Kevin Kelley subscribes to the "Gregg Easterbrook of Faulty Logic." Kevin Kelley is creating two polar opposite points of view with no middle ground in an effort to prove his point. This isn't a black-and-white issue where one side says punting causes you to lose games and the other side says not punting is unstoppable. There is a middle ground. The "punting isn't bad" crowd just doesn't think a team should blindly go for it on every fourth down. So therefore, once Pulaski is up 40-0, not punting can be seen as running up the score. It's been shown Pulaski is superior to their opponent at that point. So Kelley's logic fails in that the critics aren't saying punting will cause a team to lose if they are up 40-0, they are saying in a 14-13 game blindly going for it on fourth-and-10 could cause them to lose the game.  Once a team is up 40-0 is it clear they are the superior team, so continuing to not punt can be seen as running up the score. Once Pulaski's offense has proven to be unstoppable, then not punting becomes unstoppable.

Thus the kind of running up the score behavior that is objectionable in high school and college is not at the NFL level. But it's stupid! Leaving starters in the game at risk of injury, when holding an insurmountable late lead, is really dumb. Why does Bill Belichick, seemingly a master, expose starters to risk when there is nothing to be gained? 

As has been pointed out several times over the last week, most NFL teams don't have backup PAT blockers and use starters in those spots. It's very normal for an NFL team to do this and injuries rarely occur on a PAT.

In 2011, the Whizzies used the sixth pick of the draft on Jan Vesely, whom Washington general manager Ernie Grunfeld said was "a scoring machine." Vesely averaged five points per game in Europe, and has been rippling the nets for a 2.6-point average in the NBA. In one recent Wizards contest, the scoring machine recorded zero points, assists or steals -- but four personal fouls.

This one game sample when Vesely is 22 years old proves he will suck forever.

Hidden Play of the Week: Hidden plays are ones that never make highlight reels, but stop or sustain drives. Seattle leading 14-7 in the fourth quarter at Miami, the Marine Mammals had possession on the Bluish Men Group 7, and threw an interception. Seattle safety Earl Thomas was called for roughing the passer. Regaining the ball, Miami scored a touchdown on the next snap, and went on to win by three points. 

I'm not doing my typical, "Because a play doesn't appear in a 60 second highlight doesn't mean it wasn't important" rant. It's just common sense at this point anyway. This play ended up being the difference in the game since the Dolphins scored a touchdown on this drive, they later won by three points and this was a fairly controversial call in that Earl Thomas didn't necessarily rough the passer. I don't think it was hidden at all. 

This year's big trend in college football continues to be putting the best athletes on offense for pass-wacky scoring. The Oklahoma-Oklahoma State contest ended 51-48 with the teams combining for 801 passing yards versus 307 rushing yards. Calling plays at the line in quick tempo, Oklahoma snapped 101 times in regulation; Sunday against the Packers, the Giants snapped 62 times. The University of Tennessee finished its season averaging 36 points per game, and with a losing record. In today's college football, 36 points a game just is not enough!

This from a guy who just got done fawning over a high school coach whose team scored 56 and 77 points and just had -13 yards rushing in a game, simply because he refuses to punt the football. It seems Gregg pick and chooses when he comments on a team for being too "pass-wacky."

Single Worst Play of the Season -- So Far: San Diego appeared to have Baltimore beaten, trailing and facing fourth-and-29 as the clock ticks down. Ray Rice takes the flare pass, is hemmed in by multiple Bolts defenders -- Demorrio Williams, Corey Lynch, Takeo Spikes, Marcus Gilchrist among them. None makes much of an effort to tackle Rice, acting as though the game was already over.

Doesn't Gregg mean "highly paid glory boy" Ray Rice is the one who got the first down?

Next Week: TMQ uses ELF to warn the submarine on "Last Resort" to rise to periscope depth and check Twitter. 

Just hilarious. I wish every week was a bye week for TMQ. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

0 comments If George Steinbrenner Were Alive Then He Could Fix Everything

Upon the New York Yankees playoff loss to the Detroit Tigers (in a sweep nonetheless), quite a few New York sportswriters have trotted out the usual tired lines we hear after a Yankees playoff loss. The New York Post came out with the classy headline that said "Dear Yankees, We Don't Date Losers! Signed New Yorkers" and some other columnists wrote about what George Steinbrenner would have done, since now that he is dead, Steinbrenner is a god to these writers and no longer a temperamental jerk who makes personnel decisions on a whim. Filip Bondy said heads would have rolled if George Steinbrenner were still alive. Bondy is showing his astute business acumen in wanting heads to roll. We all know a successful organization (which the Yankees are) should immediately start firing key employees when faced with any kind of setback or failure. That's just good business, who gives a shit about continuity or stability within the organization?

Not be one to pass up a good opportunity to thrash the Yankees, Mike Lupica levels with Yankees fans and says that it is clear with George Steinbrenner dead winning games has taken a backseat to making money. Obviously the MLB team with the highest payroll in the major leagues isn't a team overly concerned with winning. To a team spending $200+ million on payroll, they are really spending all of that money to make sure they DON'T win a World Series this year. As usual, Mike Lupica doesn't have any ideas on how the Yankees can show they care about winning. Perhaps Lupica thinks the Yankees should go spend more money on expensive free agents? That is showing a dedication to winning games, but the high-paid players on the Yankees roster seem to be the players Lupica has the biggest issues with. So this would be a somewhat endless cycle. The Yankees would show they are serious about winning by signing expensive free agents, the free agents don't perform to Mike Lupica's standard, and then he suggests the Yankees shouldn't sign underperforming players and be more serious about winning games.

Yankee fans really need to take a deep breath here, be a little more realistic about who their team is, has been for a long time.

"For a long time." The Yankees won the World Series in 2009, which may as well have been 1909 in Mike Lupica's mind. This year is all that matters to him and he feels free to speak in terms of "a long time" even when this only means 2-3 years in the past.

Well, here is what the Yankee brand has become: Winning a lot of regular games, drawing a lot of people, making a lot of money.

(Revolts in horror)

Who the hell wants that? The Yankees are a team that is financially successful and competitive on the field? This would ordinarily seem like the perfect situation for a sports organization, but it only hides the dark truth underneath the Yankees seemingly-perfect facade.

They are big winners, unprecedented winners, April through September. Just rarely in October.

"Rarely" in October. This is just overdramatic bullshit. Here are three things I wish Mike Lupica knew or cared about prior to writing these two sentences.

1. The Yankees have missed the playoffs once since 2002 and have played 105 games in the playoffs over that time. If I really wanted to call Lupica out for this stupid statement, I would include seasons prior to 2002 in these calculations. I don't because I want to show the Yankees "down" decade really isn't a "down" decade.

2. The Yankees record in those games where they "rarely" win? The Yankees are 63-42 over this time.

3. That means the Yankees have a 60% winning percentage in the playoffs since 2002. Seven times since 2002 the Yankees haven't had a 60% winning percentage in the regular season. So really, a case (a weak case based on small sample sizes) could be made the Yankees are bigger winners in October than April through September more times than not. Mike Lupica doesn't care about facts and he certainly doesn't care to do research before writing his columns.

October was the old brand.

The Yankees record in the playoffs from 1995-2001?

47-20. That is a 70.1% winning percentage. Very impressive. There is a difference in a 70% and a 60% winning percentage in the playoffs. I'm not sure there is such a huge difference that Lupica could say the Yankees "rarely" win in October from 2002-2012.

The comments from members of the Yankees’ high command after the team doesn’t make it to the World Series have become as predictable as their baseball team not making it to the World Series. Once the bottom line for Steinbrenner the Elder was winning it all, or else.

I always enjoy hearing about the fond memories of George Steinbrenner and how he would not stand for losing or else heads would roll. Apparently this "heads are going to roll" strategy didn't work very effectively from 1982-1994. It's no coincidence the Yankees started winning games once they got a great core of players together and had stability in the organization. It's amazing what creating stability and creating a farm system that develops great baseball players does for a team. George Steinbrenner did want to trade Mariano Rivera, but was talked out of it, which further leads me to wonder if this pining for the George Steinbrenner-led days isn't somewhat misguided. Not freaking out every time a plan doesn't work isn't accepting failure as an acceptable end result, but is accepting failure as a natural part of executing a successful long-term plan.

For his heirs, it seems the bottom line is more about profit and loss, and that sure doesn’t mean the kind of loss the Yankees just suffered at the hands of the Tigers.

Again, Mike Lupica is saying this about the organization that has the highest payroll in the majors. If the Yankees aren't trying to win games then none of the other MLB teams are trying to win games either.

You better believe the Yankees are the most successful regular-season team of all time, even more successful than the Atlanta Braves were when they kept making the playoffs in the 1990s. And the Braves, by the way, didn’t just make the playoffs, they made it to four World Series in that decade, even if they only managed to win one.

The Yankees made three World Series in the 90's and won all three of them by the way. They also won the World Series in 2000. So the Yankees are more successful than the Braves in the regular season and in the playoffs. I'm not sure of the point Mike Lupica is trying to prove.

Starting in 2002, the Yankees have made it to the World Series twice over the past decade, have won one. The people in charge still make it sound as if the Yankees not making the Series is some kind of aberration.

It seems like Mike Lupica has the formula on how to make the World Series every single year. If he does have such a formula, it would be nice if he could share it with the Yankees.

Actually it’s become the norm. In that decade we’re talking about, the Yankees have lost in the first round five times.

The Yankees have also made it to the ALCS or better five times. So half of the time, the Yankees made it to the ALCS over the last decade. What other MLB team can claim this? Anyone know of another team that can claim this? Without a little perspective, Mike Lupica sounds like he has a point. That's what I am here for, to give perspective. I did my research and no other team can claim to have made the ALCS or better five times over the span of 2002-2012. So basically Mike Lupica is bitching the most successful postseason team over the last decade still isn't successful enough for him.

Brian Cashman, the general manager, says he is going looking for more home-run hitting monsters, even though we all saw what just happened in the postseason when good pitching kept the monsters the Yankees already have in the ballpark.

Let's cut to January after the Yankees have traded Curtis Granderson, signed Michael Bourn to a five year contract, signed Kyle Lohse to a four year deal and signed Angel Pagan to play right field. I'm guessing at that point Mike Lupica is going to bitch about the Yankees losing their home run power and how they chose to sign players who have speed, but no power. Lupica is the typical sportswriter who complains a team goes in one direction and then when that direction doesn't work he complains they didn't go in another direction.

Lupica also fails to understand the market. I didn't realize there was a large amount of quality starting pitchers on the free agent market last year. There doesn't seem to be a ton of quality pitching available this offseason either. If the Yankees want good pitching they may have to trade or overpay for it.

Understand: The Yankees clearly have a tremendous business plan. It’s just not exactly the one they’re selling about how every season is World Series or bust. They are a long-running TV series for YES (even though ratings were down this season), the money absolutely keeps rolling in.

Only a New York sportswriter could try to frame a team's financial success in such a negative manner. If the Yankees weren't running a profit then Lupica would criticize the Steinbrenners for not understanding how to run an organization and make a profit. Since the Yankees are making money, this just goes to show how the Steinbrenners only care about making money. It's a no-win proposition because Lupica will change his objection to fit the situation.

But what happens in the postseason keeps happening, no matter how surprised they act every time it does.

Any every other less successful team in the majors cries huge tears at the idea the most winning organization in baseball history can't win the World Series every year. Money should be able to buy championships! It's just not fair to Mike Lupica that the Yankees can't use the uneven playing field to their advantage. Really, if Bud Selig were a commissioner worth a damn he could step in and make sure the Yankees get their money's worth out of their roster every year.

Understand: They have made a lot of smart decisions in that time to keep the pump primed, don’t worry. Cashman had one of his best years in 2012 with Ibanez, Ichiro and Hiroki Kuroda, and maybe it’s fitting that his best work turned out to be with guys whose ages are 40, 38, 37.

Screw Brian Cashman and his good work. That doesn't matter because the results didn't turn out like they should have. There's no possible way another team should have done a better job of putting a team together and then play better over a seven game series. No way should another MLB GM be as competent as Brian Cashman is. Every year the Yankees need the best team on the field and anything less than that makes Mike Lupica scoot to the front of his chair and stomp his feet in anger.

But when it comes to the World Series, they have become a win-then team.   Under Joe Torre they won four times in five seasons, made it to the World Series five times in six seasons, finally six times in eight. But starting in 2002, they have  become the New York Braves.

Yes, but prior to 1995 the last time they made the playoffs was 1981. So the New York Braves is a good place to be compared to the Yankees under Lupica's idol, George Steinbrenner, in the 1980's and early 1990's. Who needs perspective though? Perspective doesn't give pageviews. Perspective forces Mike Lupica to look at his unrealistic expectations for the Yankees' season honestly, when he would much prefer to make his unrealistic expectations as the only way to judge the Yankees' season.

Obviously there is no shame in that, the people in charge can point to other teams spending big money and not having nearly the regular-season success the Yankees have had.

Well OBVIOUSLY there is no shame in this, even though Mike Lupica is writing this entire column about how there is shame in being the New York Braves and not winning the World Series every year. If there is no shame in only making the World Series twice in a decade, then why is Mike Lupica writing an entire column about this isn't acceptable and acting like the Steinbrenners don't care about winning?

Lupica wants his cake and eat it too. He wants to acknowledge every other big spending team hasn't had the success the Yankees have had, but he also wants to criticize the Yankees for not having more success.

But the idea that the sky is falling because they just did what they usually do — fell hard before they got to the Series ­— is just plain dumb.   They consistently fall short of what they say their mission statement is, but nothing really changes in the organization.

So in short, I'm not sure entirely what this column is supposed to be about. Lupica says the sky isn't falling, but seems to indicate the Yankees have now just accepted making the playoffs every single year. So I am interested in hearing what Lupica would do differently to the Yankees roster that would show they aren't just accepting a playoff berth and happily going home assuming their work for the year is finished? What possible move could the Steinbrenners make to unconvince (that's a new word I just made up) him they only care about making money?

They paid the Pirates to take Burnett off their hands. They might pay somebody else to take A.E. Rodriguez off their hands. That is the modern Yankee idea of holding somebody accountable.

This is as opposed to the George Steinbrenner way of holding someone accountable, which was to fire them? I guess I'm confused as to how trading an underachieving player is different from firing a manager who isn't getting the Yankees to perform at a high level. Either way, you are getting rid of a player/manager who isn't working out.

For the record, here is part of Hal Steinbrenner’s response to his team’s performance against the Tigers, by the way:   “Make no mistake, this was a bitter end to our year, and we fully intend to examine our season in its totality, assess all of our strengths and weaknesses and take the necessary steps needed to maintain our sole focus of winning the World Series in 2013.”

Mentions of how much money the team made: 0
Mentions of the goal being to win the World Series: 1

I can totally see where Lupica gets his belief the Steinbrenners only care about making money. It seems Mike Lupica is much smarter than the rest of us and sees this statement really reads as:

"Make no mistake, this was a hell of a year for the Yankees. We made a shitload of money, and we fully intend to examine how we can make even more money next season by assessing how to raise ticket prices, reduce the strength of our team and take the necessary steps needed to maintain a 5% increase in profits and the sole focus of winning a playoff series in 2013."

But whatever Steinbrenner the Younger does say, you have to say he seems pretty happy with the way his team is being run, and managed. For now he doesn’t say a word about his manager benching A-Rod in favor of a guy, Eric Chavez, who couldn’t hit or field by the end. 

Mike Lupica thinks benching A-Rod against the Tigers was a bad idea. Of course if Girardi didn't bench A-Rod then Mike Lupica would accuse him of doing nothing to prevent the Yankees from losing the series to the Tigers.

But in the end, and with as much money as they spend, they are mostly about big coin that keeps coming in. That’s the real difference between the way they are run now and the way they were run when the old man was still in charge. That’s the real bottom line with the modern Yankees.

Yes, but the New York media would have it no other way. If the Yankees started dramatically cutting payroll then they would be criticized by Mike Lupica for being too cheap.

The people in charge say what they think George M. Steinbrenner would have wanted them to say. But with the old man, it was more than just talk. 

Steinbrenner would just go fire someone, which as we know from 1982-1994 worked incredibly well. It's amazing what a saint and genius a person becomes once they have died and all of their faults can be forgotten.

Forget about Cano, you know who should wake up whistling that A-Rod is across the diamond from him? Mark Teixeira. List all his big postseason hits for the Yankees and win valuable prizes.   But not to worry, we’ve got him locked up for four more years, and about $100 million.

He hasn't been great in the playoffs, but he did hit .353/.500/.353 in the ALDS this year. Of course much like the 2009 World Series title for the Yankees, that was a long time ago in Mike Lupica's mind.

Mike Lupica is the worst.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

9 comments MMQB Review: Ray Rice Alerts Peter King to the Obvious Edition

Last week Peter reviewed the precociousness of every NFL player, got angry he Tweeted out his phone number and some of his followers actually called the phone number (though he isn't angry when his followers read his stories), and did not agree with Bill Belichick keeping Rob Gronkowski in the game to get injured on a PAT. This week Peter forgoes all of the NFL drama for NFL suspense and compares Von Miller to J.J. Watt to see which defender is a better player. I fully expect Peter to write a weekly MMQB spin-off very soon called "Keeping up with J.J. Watt." Maybe Peter will stop writing his Tuesday mailbag so he can write "Keeping up with J.J. Watt" on a weekly basis.

Prelude to a diss: In the last 52 weeks, the Packers have met the Giants three times. Green Bay has allowed 35, 37 and 38 points, and an average of 419 yards a game, and nine Eli Manning touchdown passes. Time for defensive coordinator Dom Capers to figure out a way to cover the Giants deep. Time for Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews to heal. Time for a shaky line to protect Aaron Rodgers. Time for GM Ted Thompson to find reinforcements for the line.

Is this a reference to "Prelude to a Kiss," which depending on your age, is a Duke Ellington song or a bad romantic comedy with a pre-plastic surgery Meg Ryan and a pre-I-marry-women-half-my-age-and-just-give-off-a-creepy-vibe-in-my-personal-life Alec Baldwin? If this is a reference to that, then I say "Where the hell is Ted Thompson supposed to find reinforcements for his offensive line now that the trade deadline is passed and it is Week 12? Are there magical offensive line reinforcements available to the Packers that no other NFL teams know about?"

Now we enter the cruel month of December 

It's going to be a long December. Maybe this year will be better than the last. Probably not.

(And if Green Bay doesn't wake up after that five-alarm fire of a loss Sunday night to the Giants, the Packers might give away the five seed.)

The Packers lost a game! Quick everyone panic and write the Packers off and then eventually write a column in mid-January about how "everyone" wrote the Packers off! Do it, now!

In the AFC, we're going to sleep through the playoff race, because it looks like it'll be 7-4 Indianapolis, 6-5 Pittsburgh and 6-5 Cincinnati fighting for two spots, and the way things look now, none is a threat to the AFC elite.

The only threat to the elite can come from the people. Never forget this. The people must rise up, park in front of stop signs and then hope the police officer lets you off the hook because he recognizes you.

But there is an interesting subplot in the AFC, which Ray Rice raised to me last night, before getting on a giddy Ravens charter to return home from the impossible 16-13 overtime win at San Diego.

"I don't know what kind of medicine the Steelers will put Ben Roethlisberger on this week,'' Rice said, "but they're going to give him something."

Really? Peter needed Ray Rice to bring this point up to him? He wasn't aware of this sub-plot before Ray Rice raised this issue? So Peter didn't at all think the Steelers need to get Ben Roethlisberger back healthy so they can make the playoffs? Ray Rice brought this up and Peter was like, "Oh, that's right. The Steelers probably should work on making sure their starting quarterback is healthy so they don't have to play a 38 year old third string quarterback!" I wouldn't say this is a sub-plot in the AFC, but a very major plot. The Steelers are contenders for the Super Bowl with Roethlisberger and contenders to go 7-9 without Roethlisberger.

Pittsburgh-Baltimore, the rematch, Sunday at The Big Crabcake. (I think that's Chris Berman's invention, so I'll give him naming rights.) 

Please don't give Chris Berman any kind of validation. 

And does anyone think the Steelers stand a chance of winning in Baltimore without Roethlisberger, who missed his second game with a dislocated first rib (last week's column explains how dangerous that injury can be, and typically the injury would take more than a month to heal) Sunday?

I'm just glad Ray Rice brought this little subplot up though or else I wouldn't have thought about Roethlisberger's importance to the Steelers without Rice's help. Help me Ray Rice, do the Packers Super Bowl hopes lie in whether the offensive line can protect Aaron Rodgers or not?

Now for the NFC. It's bizarro world. Here's how I handicap the six-team race:

1. Washington (5-6). The 'Skins and Bucs are playing the best among the contenders, and if Washington can win one of the next two (Giants Monday, Ravens to follow), the last three weeks (at Cleveland, at Philly, Dallas) are manageable. How great would it be to see Robert Griffin III in a Wild Card game at Soldier Field, getting chased through the snow by Urlacher and Briggs?

It would be great only if they were chasing each other with snowballs after having just gotten finished building a snowman. How precocious!

2. Tampa Bay (6-5). Watching the Bucs the last month, I keep thinking no one wants to play them.

This is ignoring the fact the Bucs barely beat a 2-win team two weeks ago and lost to the Falcons on Sunday. But yes, no one wants to play them. They are unbeatable right now...even though they lost this weekend and came really close to losing the weekend before that.

5. Minnesota (6-5). Can Adrian Peterson play quarterback?

With Peterson, all things are possible.

So here's how I see the Wild Card round on the first weekend of January:

NFC (Byes: Atlanta and San Francisco): Green Bay at the Giants (Saturday night, NBC), Washington at Chicago (early Sunday, FOX).

AFC (Byes: Houston and New England): Cincinnati at Baltimore (Saturday afternoon, NBC), Indianapolis at Denver (late Sunday, CBS).

I repeat: Andrew Luck at Peyton Manning.

"Here are my purely speculative guesses at what the playoffs are going to end up looking like. Now let's spend time discussing the narratives I have just so conveniently placed before us to discuss."

I am reminded of a quote Bill Parcells uttered every other week in the four seasons I covered the Giants for Newsday in the '80s: "Sometimes God is playing in these games."

This reminds of a quote I just made up: God doesn't give a shit about sports and you are stupid for thinking he does.

Adam Schefter broke the news last night just after the Seahawks' charter lifted off from South Florida to go home from a loss at Miami: Seattle cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner were handed four-game suspensions for violating the league performance-enhancing drugs policy...Seattle's December: at Chicago, Arizona, at Buffalo, San Francisco, St. Louis. Looks like 3-2 with Sherman, 2-3 without him to me.

When the Seahawks go 4-1 over this stretch we will read Peter King just absolutely flabbergasted the Seahawks were able to do this. The Seahawks exceeded his, OUR expectations. See "everyone" had the Seahawks written off based on Peter's pure speculation of their record without Sherman and Browner.

Impressive thing No. 2: Alex Smith was an ally, not a disgruntled employee, throughout the game. "It's got to be tough,'' said Kaepernick, "but Alex is so good to me. Our relationship is still the same as it's been. Every time I came off the field, he'd say to me, 'Did you see this?' Or, 'Did you see that?' Alex is a great guy.'' Apparently.

Alex Smith is probably used to being benched, not being wanted by the 49ers and then getting prepared to jump back in the lineup when he is called. He's had to be pretty flexible in his time with the 49ers. So he's learned to be a great guy.

The hidden advantage in the choice Harbaugh made is that now he knows he can win with two quarterbacks. One more mobile with a stronger downfield arm, weapons Harbaugh had on display in the Dome; Kaepernick completed throws of 26, 40 and 45 yards. The other is as efficient and smart a player as a coach could hope for, in Smith. I mean, who has a backup quarterback leading the league in completion percentage, with a rating over 100?

Who has this? The 49ers, that's who has it. This situation will work out well as long as Smith doesn't make waves if he gets benched or if Kaepernick doesn't make waves if he gets benched. So as long as both quarterbacks are happy with the situation, this is an embarrassment of riches at the quarterback position. Now, if Kaepernick comes out next week and struggles and gets benched for Smith, who is to say what will happen after that? So for now, it is an embarrassment of riches.

If Hines Ward were still a Steeler, he'd make running backs Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Rainey, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman (six fumbles at Cleveland Sunday, four recovered by the Browns) walk around the facility lugging a football tight to their chests. An eight-TO day? Inexcusable ...

I don't care what Hines Ward thinks.

Until I saw Rice's incredible fourth-down conversion, I thought the play of the day was Stevie Johnson's strip and recovery late in the fourth quarter on Colts safety Tom Zbikowski after Zbikowski picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick. Smart play for Johnson, who had to aim for the strip and make the strip, all while being stiff-armed by an amateur boxer, which Zbikowski has been.

So this play would have been less impressive if Zbikowski had not been an amateur boxer? I'm just wondering what being an amateur boxer has to do with holding on to the football.

If the last six weeks of the 2012 season play out similarly to the first 10, the defensive story of the season could well be two sophomore defensive players: Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Broncos linebacker Von Miller. Their play has been so outstanding that the question might not be which deserves the Defensive Player of the Year award, but are either worthy of the MVP? I asked Neil Hornsby of to break down their play to try to answer those questions:

MVP? I just wonder why J.J. Watt wasn't a Vice-Presidential candidate this past year!

But yes, let's compare Watt and Miller as if they play the same position on defense and have similar defensive responsibilities. 

Playing Time: Watt has played 89 percent of Houston's defensive snaps and Miller 90 percent for Denver. Watt has been so dominant that teams have had to start game-planning just to stop him.

And that would be a first obviously. No other defensive player has ever been game-planned around.

I'm going to skip the rest of this because it tells us what we already know. J.J. Watt is very good at swatting down passes at the line of scrimmage and Von Miller is a fantastic pass rusher.

In Summary: Many players on defense are having great years, but no one is as far ahead of the competition as J.J. Watt and Von Miller. Just as Darrelle Revis did in the early part of 2011, they are redefining what's achievable at their positions. Who's better? Flip a coin.

Ah yes, after a statistical summary of each player it comes down to a coin flip for Peter to decide which player is better. Why wouldn't a coin flip be the best determining factor? It seems appropriate.

Fine Fifteen

3. Houston (10-1). I appreciate the fact that their defensive leaders -- Connor Barwin, to me on Thursday -- says they're ticked off about giving up 983 yards in five days. They should be. But to play 10 quarters in five days and win both games deep in overtime ... that erases any negative in my mind.

It erases any negative in Peter's mind because he dutifully ignores the fact the Texans have given up 983 yards and were taken to overtime by two teams whose combined record is 9-16. It's not like the Texans were playing playoff teams or anything. They played Jacksonville and Detroit. I think any reasonable person should be a little bit worried about the Texans defense after the last two games, even knowing Detroit has a pretty good offense.

5. Atlanta (10-1). At the risk of sounding like a broken record: Michael Turner's output Sunday in the 24-23 win at Tampa: 16 touches, 30 yards; Jacquizz Rodgers' output: 12 touches, 79 yards. I keep thinking I'm watching a different game than the Atlanta coaches.

Peter does realize Jacquizz Rodgers is the size of a hobbit, right? Maybe 12 touches in the running game is all they want to give him in order to maximize his effectiveness. Rodgers is 5'6" and 196 pounds. Maybe the Falcons are concerned about wearing him down before the playoffs.

9. Tampa Bay (6-5). The more I see the Bucs, the more I think they might do what the Giants of 2007 or 2011 did -- get hot late and get on a January run that could take them very far. Not saying I think this will happen. Just saying it wouldn't surprise me if the Bucs were the NFC's sixth seed and made some big noise.

Peter isn't saying the Buccaneers are like the 2007 or 2011 Giants. He is saying he sees how they could get the sixth seed and "make some noise," which I take to mean go on a playoff run. Of course this may not happen, but Peter sees how it could happen. He isn't predicting it of course and in his list of NFC playoff teams from this MMQB he doesn't include the Buccaneers as making the playoffs. So Peter wants this prediction of the Bucs "making noise" on the record, but he doesn't want to put his money where his mouth is and predict they will be in the playoffs. He has Tampa Bay as the 9th best team in the NFL from his power rankings and the Buccaneers remind him of the 2007 or 2011 New York Giants, but he also doesn't believe they will make the playoffs. So which is it?

14. Indianapolis (7-4). If the Colts go 2-3 in December, they're likely a playoff team.

It's the Irsay Bowl! Ladies and gentlemen, get your narratives ready.

Coaches of the Week

Jim Harbaugh, head coach, San Francisco. Harbaugh proved last week he's got some Bill Belichick in him. As a coach, you have to be able to tune out the majority of the public and the media and even some in your own organization who think you're making a mistake if you firmly believe you're doing the right thing and you trust in your players to know you're doing the right thing. Such was the case when he chose Colin Kaepernick as his starting quarterback over Alex Smith, who was playing at a Pro Bowl level.

I'm not going to argue that Colin Kaepernick hasn't played well, but he has started two games in his NFL career. It's a bit early to start with "Harbaugh made the right decision in choosing between Alex Smith and Kaepernick" talk. Using this logic, doesn't this mean Harbaugh screwed up by allowing Alex Smith to start 9 games this season over Kaepernick? If Kaepernick is the better quarterback, shouldn't he have been the starter this entire year?

Let's give it a rest with the idea Harbaugh made a great decision. It's been two games and he looks like a genius now, but a lot of decisions look smart using small sample sizes. If Harbaugh was really smart and believed he was doing the right thing then he would have started Kaepernick from the first game of this season.

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me

For two men so inextricably connected in Cincinnati Bengals history, it's notable that the first time Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton met was on the field at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday.

How is it notable this is the first time these two quarterbacks have met? Andy Dalton has been in the NFL for under two years and the Bengals and Raiders play in different AFC divisions. When were they supposed to meet prior to this?

The extent of their conversation after the game went something like this, per Dalton:

Dalton: "Stay healthy."

Palmer: "You too. Good luck."

Yep, that seems like it would only interest Peter. Otherwise, it is pretty uninteresting.

1. I think this is what I liked about Week 12:

a. The Washington offensive line, which I have criticized often. Great job enabling Robert Griffin III to make his magic. What a treat a rested Griffin and his mates will be against the Giants, at home, next Monday night.

It's going to be such a treat. It's going to be like going into a Starbucks for a cafe mocha with a double shot of expresso while being double-parked and walking in the Starbucks to find there is no one in line to annoy Peter while he eavesdrops on their conversations.

h. Jay Cutler. If we define "value'' in "Most Valuable Player'' as someone whose loss would totally deflate and screw up his team, then Cutler has to be in the running for the award.

If we defined it that way then about 50 players in the NFL would be in the running for this award as well. Any decent starting quarterback would be in the running. Can you imagine the Colts without Andrew Luck? He's an MVP candidate! The Buccaneers without Josh Freeman? MVP candidate. So yes, the "valuable" in MVP does mean that player's loss would screw up his team and totally deflate them, but this goes for a lot of other players as well as Cutler. I'm not saying Cutler shouldn't get MVP consideration, but quite a few players if removed from a team would deflate and screw up that team. How would the Broncos do without Peyton Manning starting for them.

m. Chad Henne, for leading a Jags win, their first at home this year. He'd have to royally mess up to not be the Jacksonville quarterback heading into the 2013 offseason.

Wow. My opinion, as of right now, is that the Jaguars would royally have to mess up if Chad Henne is their starting quarterback heading into the 2013 season. There are still five games to be played, but at this point the Jaguars have screwed the pooch if they have Chad Henne as their starting quarterback without drafting a quarterback in the first three rounds of the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft.

2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 12:

b. Rex Ryan's logic after the 49-19 loss to New England Thursday. He tells his coordinators he doesn't want them to play Tim Tebow, then says Tebow (two broken ribs) was "100 percent available." I'm not getting that. Wonder if Woody Johnson is.

I'm getting it. It seems Rex Ryan didn't want Tim Tebow on the Jets team and he doesn't want to get into the "Play Tebow" discussion, so he tells his coordinators he doesn't want Tebow playing while pretending to the media that Tebow could play so other teams have to game plan for him.

g. Catch the easy interception, Asante Samuel. But I can't kill Samuel too much, because he played hurt down the stretch when his Falcons desperately needed him.

Peter can't kill Samuel too much, which is why he is calling out Samuel publicly in his nationally read column...because he doesn't want to kill Samuel too much.  

h. Josh Freeman's overthrow of a wide-open Mike Williams.

How dare Josh Freeman make one bad throw. This was the only bad throw by a quarterback that affected a game on Sunday, obviously.

3. I think the league overreacted, and that's putting it mildly, by censoring Rich Eisen's interview with Oscar favorite Bradley Cooper and yanking it from Eisen's Thanksgiving special on NFL Network. "The segment was pulled because the movie included content related to gambling on NFL games," the statement from NFL Network said.

Remember that Peter is the same guy who tried to sell us on the idea the NFL wouldn't intrude on Andrea Kremer's new injury research and investigation show (as featured on the NFL Network) about how concussions affect current and past players. I didn't believe at the time and I don't believe now the NFL won't censor what Kremer says on that show in any way. Peter wasn't so sure though and seemed to try to sell us on the idea the NFL would "oversee" what was said, but was giving Kremer journalistic freedom to report what she finds or to interview whoever she wants to interview. The NFL is going to be all up in that show and want to censor any material they deem to be speculation or without basis.

8. I think the Steelers, normally among the smartest two or three teams in the league in player personnel, need to answer this question: Why are you backing up a perennially beaten-up quarterback with Byron Leftwich, a very slow 32-year-old quarterback, and Charlie Batch, a soon-to-be-38-year-old quarterback?

I'm guessing this is because they were hoping Ben Roethlisberger would stay healthy and they wouldn't have to use either Batch or Leftwich. Not to mention, the Steelers were probably relying on the fact Leftwich is serviceable as a backup and had been with the Steelers for a few years already. Really good backup quarterbacks aren't exactly in long supply and the Steelers didn't use a draft pick on a backup quarterback this past year. They thought it was worth the risk to not pay for a different backup quarterback and Leftwich would succeed better than a 23 or 24 year old quarterback would. Perhaps they were wrong.

Isn't it logical to think that, among starters in the league, Ben Roethlisberger has a better-than-average chance of needing a replacement during the year?

Why would this be logical? Roethlisberger has never played less than 12 games in a season and had missed six starts over the last three years. It's not like he has missed half a season recently. Maybe it is logical to think he would need a quality backup, but that's what the Steelers thought Leftwich was.

But Steelers football czar Kevin Colbert needs to find someone so Pittsburgh won't have two old and/or slow backups.

Batch probably doesn't need to be the third quarterback on the roster, but pretty much any time an NFL team is down to their third quarterback they aren't going to have a very good chance of winning games with that quarterback. So I don't really agree with Peter regarding Batch. He is probably as good of an option as a third quarterback as most NFL teams have.

10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:

b. Controversial: Mike Florio says he was bored by Lincoln. I have to carve out three hours, and soon, to see it.

I've heard the same thing. It is a Steven Spielberg film which means it will be long and heavy-handed, so there is a chance it isn't very good. Just read the book "Team of Rivals" and there is a chance you would be more entertained. I've been down on Spielberg since the interminable "War Horse" was released and I haven't really enjoyed one of the movies he has directed since "Minority Report."

c. Black Friday. One of the lightest traffic days of the year, because I had to drive quite a bit Friday. Can't figure that one out.

Again, this isn't incredibly hard to figure out. Most people are shopping, at work, or avoiding going out because of the long lines at stores. It tends to be a day when not a lot of people are driving along highways for these reasons.

i. Florence Norman has been born. 

She was just born? I'm not sure I have heard a child under the age of 25 who isn't from Europe named "Florence." I don't hate the name, it's just an interesting name to me. At least they didn't name their daughter Pearl or Ethel.

One piece of advice, Flo: Don't listen to a word your grandfather says about rooting for the Yankees. It's the wrong thing to do.

Yeah, just go with the Flo on who to cheer for in baseball. Make your own decision.

(See what I did there?)

The Adieu Haiku

Colin Kaepernick.
Looks like I misjudged the lad.
Chiefs sound good, Alex?

Yeah, the Chiefs would try to sign Alex Smith. That's a typical Chiefs move. I'm sure the Chiefs sound good to Alex Smith, but I'm not sure Alex Smith should sound good to the Chiefs. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

3 comments ...Our Pets' Heads are Falling Off!: Week 12

It was a decent week of football this past weekend. The best game was probably the first game on Thanksgiving and there was only one overtime game this past weekend, so it sort of lacked for dramatic endings. It was a good weekend for me because I write this knowing my favorite team hasn't had a chance to choke or just outright get their ass kicked yet this week. 

Houston Texans 34 Detroit Lions 31

Well, it is a good thing the NFL got rid of those replacement officials or else there would still be a few obvious officiating calls that were missed and had an impact on a game. I'm referring of course to the fact Justin Forsett was clearly touched down and his touchdown run should not have counted in this game (of course if Schwartz had not challenged it, then it wouldn't have been an issue because the call would have gotten reviewed). The touchdown run did count and as much as I would like to chalk this Lions loss up to that bad call, they had plenty of other chances to win this game in regulation and overtime. I'm not usually a fan being very aggressive on occasions when a team is trying to stay in field goal range to kick a game-winning field goal, but both Gary Kubiak and Jim Schwartz were overly conservative in getting their kicker in field goal range to kick a game-winning field goal in this game. Both teams' offenses were moving the ball well, but both coaches called conservative run plays to ensure they stay in field goal position and give their kicker a chance at a long kick. I really didn't get Jim Schwartz trying for a field goal on third down either at the end of regulation. It was already a long 40-ish yard field goal attempt and if the snap did get bobbled or something went wrong then the Lions may have been out of field goal range on fourth down. So to me, it seemed to make more sense to call a passing play and trust your franchise quarterback not to throw an interception or get sacked on third down. On that field goal try, if the snap gets bobbled then it is a very long field goal attempt for Jason Hanson anyway. It didn't make sense to me. Otherwise, this is the second straight week the Texans defense has gotten gashed by an opposing offense. I wasn't really worried last week about them, but now I am starting to get concerned the Texans defense is going in a bit of a slump. Sure, the Lions have a powerful offense and J.J. Watt had a great individual game, but the Texans are still giving up a lot of points on defense. Considering the roll the Patriots are in right now, how many points would they put up on the Texans? For the Lions, this was their ninth straight loss on Thanksgiving Day and for all purposes makes another playoff appearance not very likely. They can blame the officiating or they could wonder why Jim Schwartz was happy with settling for a long 40-ish yard field goal attempt.

Washington Redskins 38 Dallas Cowboys 31

This was a very misleading score. It seems like the Redskins dominated this game from the outset. Tony Romo did not play exceptionally well, and I am probably feeding into the typical excuses given for him, but he had no running game and was missing Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree for most or all of this game. I don't consider Romo to be an elite quarterback and it is too much pressure to put on him to expect him to win games when the defense is giving up points constantly and the Cowboys offense is being put in a hole. As far as who was responsible for putting the Cowboys in a hole, Robert Griffin was fantastic again. He was nearly perfect the week before and this week he was incredibly good against the Cowboys. There is still a lot of Luck supporters for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but Robert Griffin has to be 1b in that Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion. Luck has done a lot of positive things for the Colts and giving them the leadership at the quarterback position they needed, but Griffin has done that for the Redskins and seems to have been more spectacular in doing so. There's really no wrong answer when it comes to which player should be Offensive Rookie of the Year. Mike Shanahan is such a genius isn't he? All it took was to find a franchise quarterback and he finally has become the great coach he showed he can be when he had a Hall of Fame quarterback with the Broncos. I am not very good at coaching speculation, but it seems to me like Jason Garrett probably won't survive after this year and while Garrett certainly isn't a top NFL head coach, there are other reasons for the Cowboys struggles this year. DeMarco Murray's injury and the occasional non-dominance of the Cowboys defense hasn't helped them win games this year either. Much of this blame falls on the head coach though and it is understandable. Garrett has been bad when his team has had a chance to win some games, so he gets the blame. I also understand the blame put on Tony Romo as well, though I'm not sure it is completely fair to him. The Cowboys are needing him to be something he probably isn't capable of being at this point.

New England Patriots 49 New York Jets 19

Well okay then. It seems the Patriots are on a mission to score as many points as possible and obliterate their opponent as quickly as they can. I can't recall a game getting out of hand as quickly as this one did. The Jets had five turnovers, including four fumbles, and allowed the Patriots to score three touchdowns in a 52 second span. I said in last week's "...Pets' Heads" that the Rams and Jets fortunes will probably be reversed this week and I was correct. Sanchez looked good last week and this week he had good statistics, but he didn't play very well against the Patriots. I'm not a huge Tebow fan, but Sanchez seems so inconsistent at this point I don't think the Jets know what Sanchez will bring when he starts a game. He could be remarkably efficient or he could be a dumpster fire. It's easy to see how this game got out of hand. One team can't commit five turnovers (unless you are the Falcons apparently) and expect to win a game, much less commit five turnovers and two of them go for touchdowns while giving up 475 yards of offense. You can't win games doing that. The Jets look like a disaster right now and I'm not sure if they are a disaster, but a good quarterback would certainly go a long way to helping them turn their fortunes around. We've seen that Mark Sanchez can be the guy on a short-term basis (like one game), but he hasn't shown anything that tells me he is the long-term answer. He does have the two AFC Championship Game appearances, which even if we chalk it up to the defense carrying the Jets to those appearances, Sanchez was at least efficient and not turnover prone to fuck it up. He's not efficient and is now turnover prone, so even on a team that has a great defense,  which the Jets don't, they would need a good running game to win and Sanchez's mistakes would stick out like a sore thumb. I don't think the Jets have that great running game and they don't have a great defense. So Sanchez's mistakes just add more fuel to the dumpster fire this Jets season seems to become at times. Man, the Patriots are looking unstoppable right now. When the defense is creating turnovers, I'm not sure who can beat them.

New York Giants 38 Green Bay Packers 10

Recall the gnashing of teeth from two weeks when the Giants were struggling to score points and win games? Now the Giants have beaten the Packers at home and everything is right with the world again. The Giants passed for 243 yards and ran for 147 yards, while the defense held Aaron Rodgers to a below average performance by sacking him five times. Isn't it funny how even the best of NFL quarterbacks can't play well when he is under constant pressure because his offensive line isn't protecting him? I feel like this is constantly lost in a discussion of NFL quarterbacks and why they play poorly. A lack of pass protection and run offense can put a lot of pressure on the quarterback to make decisions more quickly and when quarterbacks make decisions more quickly they are more likely to make bad decisions. It isn't brain science. The Giants nearly played perfectly with zero turnovers and efficiency on offense and defense. It was stupid for anyone to count out the Giants, especially after they have shown over the past couple of years they can win games after looking completely lost for a few games. Now it is time for the media to worry that the Packers may be overrated or going into a lull. They'll be fine too. They ran into a team that got an effective pass rush on Rodgers and the Giants were incredibly prepared and strong coming off the bye week.

Chicago Bears 28 Minnesota Vikings 10

It's funny how the Bears won a game now that asshole Jay Cutler was back manning the quarterback position. It's almost like for all the bad that he can do, he is also the biggest key to the Bears team playing well. The Bears defense can only do so much, as we learned last week during the 49ers game. The Bears defense did force three more turnovers, giving them 194 turnovers caused this year (that's just a rough estimate), to go along with the 35 interceptions (I'm pretty sure that's an accurate number) returned for a touchdown as well. The Bears did lose their two starting guards in this game, so for an offensive line that wasn't exactly protecting the quarterback well, that's not a good sign. As far as the Vikings go, Christian Ponder wasn't very good. Granted, he was playing a pissed off Bears defense, but 43 dropbacks for 159 passing yards isn't going to win very many games. He was missing Percy Harvin, which gave a Vikings offense that doesn't exactly have an array of weapons one more weapon they were missing. The Bears were 11-19 on third down and showed that no matter how much Cutler is hated by fans and probably (at times) some Bears fans, he is the best quarterback on the Bears roster and his health is the biggest key to the Bears' season. Of course the good news for Cutler is his porous offensive line has just gotten a little bit less healthy and is having its depth tested. So perhaps Happy Jay Cutler will turn into Pissed Off Jay Cutler next week against the Seattle Seahawks.

Cincinnati Bengals 34 Oakland Raiders 10

Not that I am not really excited about the Bengals winning games handily, but I have trouble giving them an excessive amount of credit for beating the Raiders. Granted, they beat the Raiders handily, and for that I give them credit for doing what they should have done, but the Raiders are on a string of giving up 169 points over the last four games. They are terrible defensively right now. The Bengals, again, got off to a fast start and then rode their defense to the victory. The Bengals defense gave up 218 total yards to the Raiders, which is very impressive. So perhaps I should give the Bengals more credit for doing their job in a dominant fashion. Carson Palmer's homecoming didn't exactly go as he envisioned it, though many who have seen the Raiders team play this year probably envisioned it going somewhat like it did. Palmer did prepare himself for the booing though,

A sign in the upper deck read: "Winners Never Quit," a reference to Palmer's insistence he would never play for the Bengals again.

"You obviously hear it," Palmer said of the boos. "You can't block things like that out. But I prepared myself for that."

I give Palmer credit for acknowledging he heard the boos, but maybe he should have prepared a little bit more for the Bengals defense than prepare for himself to be booed. Are injuries an excuse for the Raiders? I don't think so. They didn't have their top two running backs again this week, but the defense has to do better than it is. The Bengals have shown they can get off to a fast start and I really would start to change my opinion of them if they could show a consistent ability to run the football, like they did in this game. The Bengals ran for 221 yards and Andy Dalton just had to be smart in the passing game, which he was, to win the game. I don't believe the Bengals can win a playoff game (which the fact anyone is talking about this as a standard for the Bengals shows how far they have come over the last 10 years) because they can't run the ball and I don't think they have a good enough defense to beat playoff teams. They are showing signs this could change. I'll believe it when I see it.

Cleveland Browns 20 Pittsburgh Steelers 14

This is your weekly reminder that Ben Roethisberger is important to the Steelers. This is also your annual reminder that Charlie Batch is a third string quarterback for a reason. I'm not going to totally blame Batch. Can any team in the NFL expect to win 50% of their games with their third string quarterback? Once a team has gotten to their third string quarterback the year has either gone so badly in terms of (a) injuries or (b) the top two quarterback's performance that a team can't expect to probably win 33% of the games started by the third string quarterback. God knows I don't see Jimmy Clausen marching on the field taking control of the Carolina offense and winning any games. The Steelers had, I'm not kidding, eight turnovers in this game. So there is two ways to look at this game.

Way #1: The Steelers started their third string quarterback, committed eight turnovers and lost by six points. The odds are good that Roethlisberger will come back at some point this year, so all the Steelers have to do is not turn the ball over and they can win a game or two (maybe) until Roethlisberger gets back.

Way #2: The Steelers have an injured starting quarterback and can't take care of the ball either. They are becoming lost and even if Roethlisberger comes back he won't be the same quarterback so this game is just one more sign this Steelers season isn't going to end with a playoff berth.

I prefer Way #1. The Steelers started their third string quarterback, committed eight turnovers and only lost by six points. With eight turnovers, a team should be losing by at least 20 points. This brings me to the Browns. They were 3-16 on third down and had 238 total yards of offense. While the defense seems to be playing very well, this is still an offense waiting to mature (with a 29 year old quarterback) with young players up and down the roster on the offensive side of the ball. While I am not a Weeden fan, I have hope for these Browns, and being the optimist I am, while I find it hard to believe they get 8 turnovers and only score 20 points, I also can see how a team that is relying on rookies at quarterback, right tackle, running back, and wide receiver isn't going to be the epitome of consistent on a weekly basis. Consistent consistency, isn't that what Joe Morgan used to preach?

Indianapolis Colts 20 Buffalo Bills 13

Another Fitzpatricky day for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He had a touchdown throw and an interception. He didn't do much to win the game for the Bills and didn't do much to lose the game. Andrew Luck was okay again in this game. He threw for 240 yards, but he also dropped back to pass 37 times and completed 20 passes. He's also a rookie and I am in a good mood, so I will lay off him a bit. I'm shocked the Colts are 7-4 right now, though I still can't get behind the Arians-Pagano dual Coach of the Year candidacy. I'm not trying to be mean to Chuck Pagano, but Bruce Arians deserves the Coach of the Year award and it shouldn't be shared. I am not trying to underplay the inspirational role Pagano has played, but giving him part of the Coach of the Year award seems a bit too dramatic and away from the purpose of the award. I'm not going to deny his inspiration and direct connection to God, who clearly loves the Colts and is helping them win games, but just give the Coach of the Year award to Bruce Arians. Then Arians can get hired by another NFL team after this season as their head coach and he will go 22-26 over three seasons, get fired, and we can all move on. The Bills defense sacked Luck three times and seems to have done a pretty good job in this game of holding the Colts offense in check. Of course, they did give up a punt return for a touchdown, which was the difference in this game. C.J. Spiller got 14 carries for 107 yards, which makes me wonder why he doesn't get more carries than he is getting. I wonder how Gregg Easterbrook feels to have unwanted, undrafted All-Star Fred Jackson running for 16 yards on 6 carries while me-first, highly drafted and highly paid glory boy C.J. Spiller has developed into the best Bills running back?

Denver Broncos 17 Kansas City Chiefs 9

It seems that Brady Quinn is not the answer for the Chiefs at the quarterback position. I have probably said this every week and I realize there isn't much the Chiefs can do about this, but I feel like it still merits mentioning. Kansas City's defense played well in this game not to give up points. The Chiefs were in charge of this game in the first half, then Romeo Crennel went for a field goal instead of a touchdown late in the first half. Gregg Easterbrook is probably going to mention how the Chiefs kicked a field goal on fourth-and-2 on the Broncos 4 yard line rather than go for the touchdown to go up 10-0 at the end of the first half and that is why the Chiefs lost this game. Romeo Crennel explains,

"I thought points on the board were important," Crennel said by way of explanation.

Then Crennel went back to reading "Curious George Takes a Trip" and ignored any followup questions. Decisions like this one are always easy to second-guess. Would I have gone for the touchdown? Probably, but the Chiefs defense is playing well in not giving up any points, while the Chiefs offense isn't very good and possibly couldn't get the first down. So I can see taking the points and not risking giving the Broncos momentum right before halftime, but I also see how the Chiefs offense isn't very good and Crennel should try to win the game rather than play it safe. Crennel should know Manning is going to score points in the second half and should also want to have as big of a lead as possible. Either way, the odds of Gregg Easterbrook blaming this decision on why the Chiefs lost the game is 100%. For the Broncos, Manning made the throws he needed to make when he needed to make them and Knowshon Moreno made a cameo appearance to have a good game. He can go back in hibernation now. This is a game the Broncos should and did win. Manning made a fantastic pass to Demaryius Thomas to score the go-ahead touchdown and the Broncos never looked back.

Miami Dolphins 24 Seattle Seahawks 21

The Seahawks received some sort of karmic payback for the game-winning touchdown they were awarded by the replacement officials against the Packers on Monday Night Football. Earl Thomas was called for roughing the passer on a play when he clearly didn't have time to pull up. It wasn't a very good call in my opinion. Such is the state of the NFL today. Not that it was a big play, seeing as Bobby Wagner intercepted Ryan Tannehill's pass on this very same play and the penalty eventually led to a Dolphins touchdown. Very tough call for the Seahawks. It was even tougher for the Seahawks after the game when they learned their two starting corners would be suspended four games for a violation of the NFL drug policy. Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman both claim it was Adderall, which may or may not be true, but either way doesn't reflect well on those who are suspended for truly using Adderall. Not that this is a big issue or not, but I like to bring issues up and then immediately drop them. Russell Wilson was great on the day in only throwing six incomplete passes. Tannehill only threw eight incomplete passes, so it was a good showing for the rookie quarterbacks. Marshawn Lynch suffered the SI jinx (a story on him appeared in the latest issue, so I am expanding the jinx to the inside of the issue since the jinx clearly didn't work on Notre Dame's football, which is the team on the cover of the issue) by only running for 46 yards. The difference in this game was the roughing the passer call and Tannehill's drive with 90 seconds left to set up Dan Carpenter for a game-winning field goal. He's so clutch, that Tannehill.

Atlanta Falcons 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23

There was also a story on Doug Martin in this week's SI and he only ran for 50 yards on 21 carries in this game. I think I'm going to singlehandedly try to expand the SI cover jinx to include any player mentioned in the latest week's Sports Illustrated. It's fun to start new narratives and fake jinxes like that. I'm surprised Bill Simmons hasn't tried to do this first. The Falcons have seven wins this season by seven points or less. They are very good when it comes to winning close games. I'm not sure if there is an art to that or not, but considering my favorite team loses every close game they play I am starting to believe it has something to do with coaching and the art of a team figuring out how to win close games. I'm not sure I even understand what "figuring out how to win a close game" means, but the Falcons have turned it into something they do this year. Matt Ryan has become very good at leading game-winning drives. The real test for the Falcons comes, of course, in the playoffs. Can they win a playoff game or two? The Buccaneers' defense gave up a lot of yardage in this game, but were still in a position to win. They didn't do a hell of a lot to stop Matt Ryan, since Ryan only threw six incomplete passes on the day, but they managed to get Ryan to commit two turnovers. That's seven turnovers in the last two games for Ryan if you are counting at home. They appear to be a team on the way up as well and have responded well to Greg Schiano. Josh Freeman has time to throw the ball and has guys to throw the ball to. The Bucs are a very good example of a team who needed a change in culture in order to turn the team around and Schiano has provided that change.

Jacksonville Jaguars 24 Tennessee Titans 19

The Jaguars won at home! Time to celebrate! Chad Henne is the quarterback of the future and the Jaguars can now trade Blaine Gabbert for a second or third round pick! Okay, maybe two of those statements aren't entirely true. Henne did play well, though the fact he was sacked seven times certainly should raise some red flags as to how an average quarterback like him is going to play for the rest of the season with defensive pass rushers in his face. Let's ignore that for now and talk about how clutch Henne was. Okay, enough talking about that. Let's now talk about how frustrating the Titans are. Two weeks after beating the shit out of the Dolphins, they go to Jacksonville and get beaten by the Jaguars. I wish my favorite team was in the AFC South. It just seems like a fun division to play in this year. I don't know if it is fair to say Blaine Gabbert's time in Jacksonville is done, but it certainly isn't looking good right now. I had faith he could bounce back, and he still can since he is only 23, but he is probably a good example of a college quarterback who needed to sit for a year or two coming out of college. So for now, Chad Henne is the savior of the Jaguars franchise, and the new Jaguar fans in London are really going to enjoy watching him play when the Jaguars owners rips the team from the fans in Jacksonville and plays half of the home games overseas. Even if this happens four years from now, Henne will be on the team since he is the quarterback of the future and all.

Baltimore Ravens 16 San Diego Chargers 13

Fourth-and-29 and the Ravens convert. That's crazy and pretty inexcusable. I know the fun thing is to blame Norv Turner for this, and while he certainly doesn't escape blame I can't find it in myself to blame him for his player's tackling so poorly as to give up 30 yards on a fourth down dump down pass. These are the kind of things that happen when you put an elite quarterback like Joe Flacco in a just makes him stronger. Nearly every fired coach has a defining play, fair or not, that ultimately sums up his legacy with a team. I think fourth-and-29 has a good chance of defining Norv's legacy in San Diego. At 4-7 it is going to take a lot of work and some luck for the Chargers to get in the playoffs. The Baltimore defense played well on this day against the Chargers, holding them to 280 yards and sacking Philip Rivers six times in the game. That's really impressive and if the Ravens defense can play like that, then the offense is going to play well enough to win a playoff game. Granted, I don't know if the Ravens defense can play like that every week. I guess we will see. I feel bad for Chargers fans. They see Michael Turner, Darren Sproles, and Vincent Jackson (pretty much the entire NFC South has an ex-Charger contributing for them, so thanks A.J. Smith) playing well over the past few years and probably can't help but think it would have been nice to keep those guys around. This is what happens when a team makes players expendable due to salary demands and then don't draft well enough to replace these players. There's talent on this Chargers team, but it needs a new voice. I'll be interested to see what happens with Philip Rivers if a new coach is brought in (how about Ron Rivera? He's available AND has a history with the Chargers) and wants his own quarterback. I doubt that would happen, but Rivers certainly hasn't played up to his previous standard this year.

San Francisco 49ers 31 New Orleans Saints 21

I realize I am in the minority on this, but if it comes down to it I am not sure I am fine with Alex Smith losing his job to Colin "Toucan Sam" (look at his nose, it fits) Kaepernick. It's nothing against Kaepernick as he is in a great situation to succeed with a strong running game, strong offensive line, and great defense, but once Smith gets "healthy" I am not sure he should lose his job to injury. Another concern I have is this Smith/Kaepernick situation will set concussion awareness back a little bit. I don't know how often a situation will play out like this, but the next time a veteran quarterback has a concussion and he sees a young quarterback full of potential on the bench ready to step in and take his place, will he be thinking of how Alex Smith lost his job on a 7-2 team to Kaepernick? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it would be somewhere in his head and so he may be more willing to rush back out on the field before he is ready after having experienced a concussion. Kaepernick has played great, but he is in a position to succeed as well. He has all the elements around him that a young quarterback needs to be successful. In fact, if it weren't for the circumstances of why Smith would lose his job as the starter I see no reason Kaepernick shouldn't keep the starting job. I'm not sure I like a starting quarterback losing a job to injury, specifically a concussion. Kaepernick doesn't have to do too much and he can use his skill set to bring a different look to the 49ers offense. It was clear the 49ers didn't love Alex Smith when they tried to sign Peyton Manning, so perhaps Jim Harbaugh wanted Kaepernick to get a shot at starting anyway, without having to fire the quarterback that led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game. Drew Brees looked normal against the 49ers suffocating defense and the Saints (as usual) can't stop the run. Brees looking normal also had something to do with the offensive line injuries the Saints were facing. Brees was sacked five times. Again, offensive line protection doesn't get mentioned enough as to why elite quarterbacks are able to play so well. Even the best of quarterbacks have to make rushed throws and make mistakes with pressure in their face. Am I the only one who thinks the media forgets this when evaluating quarterbacks?

St. Louis Rams 31 Arizona Cardinals 17

It seems after this week's performance that Ryan Lindley isn't the answer for the Cardinals at quarterback either. Janoris Jenkins, who thankfully doesn't have to focus on his responsibilities in life due to the Rams assistance, returned two interceptions for a touchdown and that provided the difference in this game. The Cardinals are sort of different in how they have attempted to look for a franchise quarterback since Kurt Warner retired. They haven't drafted a quarterback early in the draft, but traded for Kevin Kolb, signed Derek Anderson, drafted John Skelton and Ryan Lindley late in the NFL Draft and signed undrafted free agents Richard Bartel and Max Hall. They have taken the sort of "let's throw a developmental quarterback out there early" approach to finding a franchise quarterback. Of course, there have been times they haven't had much of a choice to take this approach due to poor performance and injuries. A team that does seem to believe it has found its franchise quarterback is St. Louis. I think I would be willing to argue this point, but I can't argue with the genius of 8-8 that is Jeff Fisher. The Rams ran the ball really well with Steven Jackson and were able to hit on long passes to their receivers, which seems to be the offensive game plan for the Rams and can be successful for them. This Rams defense seems to make strides and then take steps back. Last week was a step back, and as I so not humbly sort of predicted after the Jets game, the Rams team played well this week. I can be critical of Jeff Fisher, but it seems like he usually knows how to put a decent defense on the field. Now if he could just work on making the team that showed up two weeks ago against the 49ers be the Rams team on the field every week.